Finding and curating your advocates can significantly improve your culture

Ven Diagram with Advocacy in the Middle, Loyalty and Trust surrounding it
Ven Diagram with Advocacy in the Middle, Loyalty and Trust surrounding it
The North Star | The Journey to Advocacy

Establishing a clear north star metric for your business is hard work.

When I earned my MBA in 2006, I was taught the Milton Friedman — Esque mantras of “Shareholder Value,” “Return on Investment,” and “Profit” as the core measures of success for any business. One of the first books I was asked to read was “The Goal” by Eliyahu Goldratt, a treatise to the “Theory of Constraints” theory of firm management.

In the software product world, our leadership literature is rife with attempts at explaining metrics for product success from the Google “HEART” metrics to Dave McClure’s Pirate Metrics “AARRR” to OKRs (“Objectives and Key Results.”) …


Lexicon > Stated Values > Mantras > Stories and Lore > Symbols and Art > Conversations > Action in a Rainbow
Lexicon > Stated Values > Mantras > Stories and Lore > Symbols and Art > Conversations > Action in a Rainbow
The Context for Culture

CULTURE AND STRATEGY

According to “The Internet,” Peter Ferdinand Drucker (1909–2005) purportedly said these words:

Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast” - Attributed to Peter Drucker

I cannot find any evidence of it in his writing, but this quote sparks a fantastic question all leaders have to struggle with in constructing their businesses. “What is culture, and how does it relate to the strategy of the organization?”

Like most important words in the English language, it is difficult for a group of people to operate on it purposefully without a shared definition. …


As Marc Andreessen said, “Software is eating the world.” For most firms, the software products they employ are key strategic investments and a they require a fundamental shift in how we think about how the software touches our customers or our employees as an extension of our brand.

Continuous Innovation is the future of software product development, but it requires some changes to how your organization thinks. Here are seven steps your organization can take in order to prepare for a shift to Continuous Innovation:

  1. Choose to compete on experience. In fact, if you intend to build a relationship with your consumer and expect to defend a fair margin, you need to be competing on experience. …

A Two Decade Long Romance

A variety of sticky notes and circle stickers with numbers in them.
A variety of sticky notes and circle stickers with numbers in them.
The Evolution of Our Sticky Notes

Our industry owes sticky notes a tribute.

Sticky notes have become a prized item in the product leaders toolbox. We use them to brainstorm, sort, prioritize, vote, organize, group and rearrange everything from thoughts, domains, and problems to ideas, concepts and user stories. It is fair to say we would be lost without them in the product development world today.

We have learned a lot about how to use them and how not to use them along the way. …


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There is never quite enough whiteboard space. As all good product leaders know, flip-charts and sharpies solve this problem. They essentially allow for infinite space for ideation and idea sharing. You can use them to wallpaper an entire room during a productive workshop.

If you live and die by the flip-chart and the sharpie, or if you use flip-charts in your work and you want a way to improve the experience, then you will find this little micro-innovation helpful.

We always hear “The devil is in the details.” But the origin of this phrase is much more positive. According to Wikipedia, it came from Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. He was regarded as a pioneer of modernist architecture and the phrase was in reference to the importance of each and every detail in his work. …


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The Objective Measurement of Trust

“Trust” is the foundation of all relationships. We know this inherently. Including, not only our personal relationships, but the relationships we want to build between our business and the people the business serves. All businesses, by their very nature, exist to serve their employees, customers, vendors and shareholders, all of whom are confident the business will keep the commitments it has made. This is what we call trust.

Several authors, including Rachel Botsman, Stephen M.R. Covey, Barbara Brooks Kimmel, Natalie Doyle Oldfield and many other brilliant minds have come up with innovative ways to prove trust is not only valuable to every business, it is a leadership imperative. …


Many of us are terrible at giving feedback, myself included. Here is a formula based on the Self-Determination Theory (SDT) to make it easier.

While it will not fix all things, it promises to make your feedback a little more powerful and thoughtful. It is appropriate for both positive and negative feedback, but it will improve your culture even if you only use parts of it.

The Hard Thing About Feedback

People tell the truth in private, but are sometimes silent in public or worse, they say something different in public because they have anxiety or fear. This happens when they don’t trust the environment or the people in their environment enough to be fully authentic and honest. Most people want to be authentic, they want to call out the truth, but they don’t. This is a failure of leadership. It is a failure to create an environment of authenticity and trust and it is easy to fix with a little courage and the purposeful use of the Self Determination Theory. …


Experience is what creates a sustainable competitive advantage. This is the nature of competition.

Speed, Quality, Price, Features and Other Factors as pieces in an Experience Puzzle
Speed, Quality, Price, Features and Other Factors as pieces in an Experience Puzzle
The Experience Puzzle

Economists have argued for centuries about the nature of competition.

According to Adam Smith in the 18th century, every individual “intends only his own gain.” Therefore, he exchanges what he produces with others who sufficiently value what he has to offer. One thing many economists agree on is the elusive nature of individual utility. What one man values, others often ignore. This simple fact is what drives human innovation and ingenuity.

I was taught many things about competition and positioning in the course of earning my MBA, We read about Michael Porter’s five-forces model, Jerome McCarthy’s 4 P’s of Marketing, and a few other generic frameworks, which invariably describe the relationship between cost and target positioning. One model that stuck with me, as I have seen it used countless times in business, is a more traditional contextual model for determining the positioning of your product, your services and ultimately for your firm called “The Tradeoff Triangle.” …


Mathematical formula that describes loyalty as a function of the sum of experiences from when you met until now (X) Time
Mathematical formula that describes loyalty as a function of the sum of experiences from when you met until now (X) Time
A Mathematical Formula for Loyalty

Authentic, self-determined loyalty only occurs after hard-earned, authentic trust is well established. This is true for interpersonal relationships just as it is for the relationships between customers and firms or between an employees and firms. Trust is always a fundamental prerequisite to loyalty. If you are serious about earning sustainable and authentic loyalty, you must have established an authentic and thorough foundation of trust.

Once you have gained trust, the next natural step in your customer relationships is loyalty. The “buy 12 cups of coffee and get the 13th cup free” type of loyalty behaviors some companies use to bribe through discounts or freebies are not sustainable. You have to keep giving the discounts to continue to get the behaviors. The type of blind loyalty demanded by drug warlords or mafia boss “leaders” who use fear, manipulation or outright bribery is generally feigned as well. …


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Earning and Sustaining Loyalty (The Game You Never Finish)

Authentic, self-determined loyalty takes time and experience to earn. I use the word “earn” because it is difficult to purposefully create. It takes the persistent delivery of value that comes over time through many cycles of making commitments and keeping them at a level your customers perceive as valuable. Loyalty is hard to earn. It generally takes longer to achieve than we believe and without an objective measurement system for loyalty, we don’t know we have earned it. …

About

Sean Flaherty

Technologist. Philosopher. Inspirer.

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